“It’s A lot When You’re In It – But Then They’re Gone”

A stranger helped me see why I should savor even the toughest mom moments.

November 25, 2015

I was at the grocery store with my three kids this week, picking up a few items for their school’s food drive. The outing was an effort to involve the kids in giving and remind them that not everyone is as lucky as we are to have a pretty amazing Thanksgiving meal in a warm, cozy home with lots of extended family.


It was around 4:30pm and by aisle 2, I was regretting the outing. My 5-year-olds were tiredly roaming the aisles finding snacks for themselves, and my 2-year-old was just plain miserable — not happy in the cart, tearing things off the shelves, climbing out of the back of the cart. It was misery, and we were all tired and cranky. I was anxiously checking out when a woman in her mid-50s stopped me.

“Your son. He’s so beautiful. He reminds me so much of my son who is a senior in college now. He just won a decathlon!” She just stood there, struck by how much my 2-year-old’s golden curls were just like her son’s were two decades earlier.

I made some remark like, “That’s so nice, you must be so proud! He’s driving me crazy.”

“All I do is cry now,” she responded. “I know it’s a lot when you’re in it, but then your babies are gone. And I cry all the time.”

I sadly smiled at her and left the store. I piled everyone in my car and drove home. That night, the usual chaos ensued. My 2-year-old threw his food at me at dinner, bath time mayhem left me soaked, and my daughter got out of bed no fewer than seven times after being tucked in.

But I was calmly content and never more thankful for my happy and healthy little ones that I know won’t be little forever.


Thankful For: Kid-Friendly Local Restaurants!

We have a few posts coming about what we're thankful for. Here's the first.

November 24, 2015

When I first moved to Westchester, the thing I missed most about living in the city was all the good eating. But Westchester has steadily been upping its culinary game, and this year my family visited many great restaurants, in a variety of cuisines, offering high-quality, delicious food. Best of all, this being the suburbs, most of the restaurants around here are kid-friendly – something that I’m always thankful for! Being a parent shouldn’t mean missing out on great dining experiences.


So I just wanted to say thanks to all those restaurants that make dining out with kids a fun time for everyone. Special shout-outs go to three places that we return to time after time. Bartaco in Port Chester, for creating the cutest upscale beach bungalow ambience – those nautical-themed low-slung benches! – and making us feel like we’re dining out at a hip vacation spot. Also, for plying my kids with cheese quesadillas, churros and coloring books while my husband and I dig into our Baja fish tacos and pork tamales in peace. (Bonus: most of their menu is gluten-free.)

Saigonese in Hartsdale, for being not only the most family-friendly Vietnamese restaurant in Westchester, but literally the only Vietnamese restaurant in Westchester – and serving up some incredibly flavorful pho (see our past review here). The wait staff will cheerfully bring us any number of utensils to replace the ones my kids drop, and the kitchen doesn’t bat an eye at our request for a kiddy bowl of pho: Hold the basil, onions, chiles, lime, cilantro and bean sprouts – just noodles in broth, please! (And it’s still delicious.)

And finally, an institution of Larchmont we discovered only recently: Stan’z Café, which makes the best gourmet sandwiches I’ve ever had – and that’s including ones from places in the city. I love that while the place is always hopping, it’s quick to turn around tables so we never have to wait very long. Plus, Stan’z serves the fluffiest pancakes this side of the Hudson, so the kids are happy while I enjoy my fresh baguette of spicy ham, fresh mozzarella, sun-dried tomato, arugula and pesto mayo. Check out this great herbed crostini hors d’oeuvre recipe from Stan’z owner Steve Weishaus; it’s perfect for serving at upcoming holiday events.

If you haven’t been doing so already, follow us on Instagram, where we post photos of the great, kid-friendly restaurants that we visit. And let us know which ones you love so we can check them out!

Westchester Can’t Live Without: Bear Mountain

An invigorating post-turkey day outing for the whole family.

November 23, 2015

Lorri Dyner, a decorator, blogger and The Today Show contributor, couldn’t live in Westchester without:


Day trips to Bear Mountain

“We use the same itinerary every time—first stop is the Perkins Memorial Observatory, where my kids pretend to ‘rock climb’ and we admire the views. Then we pile back in the car and head down to the Bear Mountain Inn. The kids take a spin on the wonderful historic carousel, and then we amble over to Hessian Lake, where we set up our lunch at the picnic tables. A stone’s throw away is an epic playground, so the kids love to spend time there before we wrap it up and head home.”

Bear Mountain State Park, Route 9W North, Bear Mountain, NY

The Birthday Giving Project

Help a child in need celebrate his or her birthday.

November 20, 2015

I love the idea of getting my kids to help out within the community, especially at this time of year. But when they’re so young, it’s not always easy to find projects that they can connect with and find meaning in. So when my friend Vanessa told me about how she and her children were participating in Volunteer New York’s Birthday Giving Project, I was excited – what kid doesn’t totally identify with birthdays?


The idea is so simple, and it’s also something fun to do in the house on a rainy (or snowy!) day. You and your kids make a “birthday celebration box” for a child in need by wrapping a shoe box, then filling it with items for putting together a birthday party (cake mix, streamers, candles, a couple of small gifts – here is the suggested list). You can choose the gender and age of the intended recipient.

Boxes can be dropped off at the Tarrytown branch of Volunteer New York, and they’ll go to a specific local nonprofit, such as Hope’s Door of Pleasantville, Mamaroneck Child Development Center, or Boys and Girls Club of Mount Vernon. My kids had fun going to the store and picking out the contents of the box, but their favorite parts were actually making birthday cards and, of course, going to town on the wrapping paper and scotch tape!

More details can be found at Volunteer New York’s Birthday Giving Project page. Also check out the organization’s list of holiday volunteering opportunities for Westchester-based food, toy and coat drives.

Volunteer New York, 220 White Plains Road, 2nd Floor, Tarrytown; 914-948-4452

Westchester’s Best Playgrounds: Gedney Park in Chappaqua

We’re on the hunt for unique and interesting playgrounds throughout Westchester County.

November 18, 2015

By Michelle Gillan Larkin

When I take my five-year old son to the playground, I’m always sure to bring along water, a snack, and a pack of wipes. We recently stumbled upon a gigantic gem of a park in Chappaqua that begs visitors to pack enough gear to last the better part of a day.


It’s called Gedney Park, and it has so much to offer. A whopping 126-acres of offerings, as a matter of fact, and the playground is just the start. This vast bastion of the great outdoors is situated along the heavily-traveled Route 133, and it would not be an exaggeration to call it an oasis from life that’s whizzing by at 40-miles per hour. As we pulled off the road and into the parking lot, my son spotted the playground first, and took off at a pace that I’m sure was over the speed limit.


He was tickled that he had to cross over this sweet, little covered bridge to enter the sprawling play area, and thrilled to discover three jungle gyms (big, bigger, biggest), six swings for young and older kids alike, and a small sandbox. While he ran in twenty different directions, I stood still in awe that all of this sits at the very edge of a small, wooded area. A serene backdrop painted in the colors of fall, with welcoming picnic tables along its perimeter.

Surprise: There’s hiking here too!


When it was time for a break, I grabbed my son’s hand and we ventured into those woods yonder for an easy hike along a short loop that’s dotted with signs describing the types of trees we were looking up at, and the insects, birds, and small animals that live among them.

With this taste of nature on the tips of our tongues, we left the playground to explore the rest of the park. There before us was a wide, open field that seemed to cry out for picnic blankets to cover it. The lush, green grass sloped upward at one end and we imagined it would be quite the ride down in a sled.


We then picked up another path that led to a large, sparkling pond. We were able to walk all the way around it, and got giddy when we spotted a turtle sunning himself on a rock. Across the water, the woods beckoned to us once again. We started to follow the clearly blazed trails only to realize we were headed way uphill. We turned back, but vowed to return armed with better footwear and daddy.

With so much activity, exercise, and space, one sippy cup and a pack of Goldfish would never be enough to tackle all of Gedney Park. Yet, it’s nice to have a choice: Divide and conquer, or plan ahead, pack the proper provisions, and spend the whole day long immersed in these beautiful green acres.

Check back in with us in two weeks when we’ll visit a playground in Scarsdale that’s brand-spanking new.

Gedney Park, Route 133, Millwood

Westchester Holiday Tree Lighting Guide


November 16, 2015

By Michelle Gillan Larkin


Friday, November 20

Kick off the holiday season in Yonkers at the Cross County Shopping Center with a parade at 6:30 pm featuring holiday characters, marching bands, dance groups, and a big guy in a red suit. The beat goes on with face painting, live music, and strolling entertainers, until the evening is complete with the lighting of the 40-foot Christmas tree at 8 pm amid a dazzling fireworks display.

Saturday, November 28

Gather ’round Armonk’s tree in Wampus Brook Park at 5 pm for illumination and Christmas carols, marking a festive end to the annual Frosty Day activities that take place in town from noon to 4 pm. Arrive early and join in the parade as Frosty the Snowman leads revelers from the streets of downtown to the big tree in the park.

Sunday, November 29

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the season at the City Lights, Bright Holiday Nights celebration at Tibbets Park in White Plains from 4 to 6 pm. The mayor will flip the switch on the tree and Santa will be on hand to spread the holiday cheer. The evening also features carolers, music, and refreshments. (Snow date: Sunday, December 6)

Wednesday, December 2

Christmas will be in the air at Vasallo Park in Croton-on-Hudson when the evergreen is lit at 6 pm. Get there half an hour early to sing your heart out with other holiday carolers.

Tree Island is the place to be in Pleasantville (Manville Road and Great Oak Lane) for a community sing-along and tree lighting from 7 to 8 pm.

Friday, December 4 

In Bedford, assemble at the firehouse at 7 pm to warm up with hot chocolate right before the tree is lit on the Village Green. The evening is hosted by the Bedford Village Business Association, and it kicks off the annual Jingle Pass Weekend that boasts discounts and treats from local merchants.

Mount Kisco’s annual tree lighting and caroling ceremony takes place in front of Village Hall at 6 pm. Afterwards, enjoy cookies and cocoa with Mr. Claus across the street indoors at the American Legion.

Scarsdale’s Christmas Tree will light up to the Hoff Barthelson Girls Choir at 5 pm. Santa will visit between 5 and 6:30 pm, at Boniface Circle in Scarsdale Village. Free hot cocoa and candy canes.

Join Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano for the annual tree lighting festivities in Getty Square from 4 to 6 pm.

Saturday, December 5

For Ardsley’s annual Christmas tree lighting, meet at the firehouse at 6 pm and walk over to the tree by American Legion Park. Refreshments will be served at the Community Center afterwards, with live music from Ardsley High School and a visit from old St. Nick.

Expect holiday cheer galore at the Bedford Hills train station for the annual tree lighting extravaganza beginning at 5 pm. Fresh-baked cookies, hot chocolate, Santa, and caroling led by Bedford Hills Elementary School and the Antioch Baptist Church will make for a jolly, good night.

Step back in time at the Horace Greeley House in Chappaqua for the annual holiday open house. Kids of all ages can make old-fashioned Christmas crafts, like cornhusk dolls and paper chains, from 1 to 5 pm. As darkness falls, the tree lighting celebration gets underway and includes a visit from Kris Kringle.

Dobbs Ferry’s tree lighting ceremony takes place at the corner of Cedar and Main Streets at 5 pm. Refreshments will be served at the firehouse right afterwards, and Santa will be on hand to pose for pictures.

Holiday music will be in the air at Irvington’s annual tree lighting ceremony at the I.K. Benjamin Community Center on Main Street. Festivities begin at 4:30 pm and the tree lights up at 5 pm. Refreshments will be provided by the volunteer fire department.

The 16th annual holiday tree lighting in Tarrytown takes place at Patriot’s Park at 5 pm. Afterwards, walk over to Warner Library for Christmas music and pictures with Santa Claus.

Tuckahoe’s tree lights up at 6 pm on the first night of Winterfest, held annually in Depot Square. The event runs from 5 to 8 pm and includes music, ice-skating (BYOS — Bring Your Own Skates!), caroling led by the Asbury Summer Theatre, and food vendors. Winterfest continues on Sunday from noon to 5 pm with more skating, hayrides, pictures with Santa, and food vendors.

Yorktown holds its 4th annual Holiday Electric Lights parade at 6:30 pm, culminating with the illumination of the Christmas tree at the Jack DeVito Memorial Field. Line up on Front Street at 5:30 pm, and bring a non-perishable food item or hats/gloves to benefit local food pantries and Yorktown Community Help. (Snow date: Sunday, December 6)

Sunday, December 6

Music, food, and fun kick off at 6 pm at Katonah’s annual tree lighting festival at St. Luke’s Church on Bedford Road.

Bundle up for the annual Tree Lighting Social in Mamaroneck from 4 to 6 pm at Harbor Island Park, complete with music, refreshments, and pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Scotts Corner in Pound Ridge will be transformed into a glittering winter wonderland for the 13th annual Christmas tree lighting celebration from 5 to 6 pm. Gather at the firehouse to catch a glimpse of Santa and to be dazzled as the community tree lights up the night.

Comfort Food at Its Best

New Rochelle's The Wooden Spoon really hits the spot.

November 13, 2015

The Buzz: If no one in your family can ever agree on where to eat, then The Wooden Spoon in New Rochelle is the place for you guys. Serving up satisfying American comfort food, the extensive menu at this new restaurant, opened this past summer, will make everyone happy.

wooden spoon chicken and waffles

The Taste: In addition to hard-to-choose-between items such as chicken pot pie, smothered pork chops, fish and chips, and veggie lasagne, there’s a varied selection of burgers, sandwiches and salads (try “The Spoon” — avocado, fresh mozzarella and red onions in a honey balsamic dressing). I ordered the Southern fried chicken and waffles, which quickly disappeared with the help of my kids. For sides, you’ll find things like fried pickles, crispy Brussels sprouts and disco fries. The drinks are fun, too, with everything from milkshakes to hand-squeezed lemonades to local craft beers.

wooden spoon mac and cheese

And for the toughest customers — the kids — there’s mac and cheese in several variations; you can add in ingredients like lobster, pulled pork or chipotle peppers. My advice, though? Go with the plain, gooey, three-cheese version. Seriously, it was some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. I was practically pushing the kids out of the way to grab a few bites.

wooden spoon new rochelle

Bottom Line: Go! The Wooden Spoon occupies a smallish space on Division Street (there’s plenty of street parking), with about a dozen tables plus some counter space. When we arrived on a Saturday afternoon for lunch, it was pretty busy and stayed that way for the whole time we were there. The service was friendly, if a bit slow. Not that we were complaining after devouring the meal.

The Wooden Spoon, 16 Division Street, New Rochelle; 914-278-9432 

Sponsored Post: Excel Fitness Larchmont

Tailored Fitness Classes for the whole family!

November 12, 2015

Tired of the GYM setting? Excel Fitness Larchmont provides a variety of fitness classes in a NON-GYM atmosphere. You can protect your body from injury in small classes that offer an intimate, boutique-style group setting while achieving your personal goals. Class size is limited to 8-10, allowing instructors to offer modifications to accommodate the beginner, intermediate and advanced client. Fitness tailored to meet your needs in a small class setting — thats the Excel way!

Excel specializes in Pilates, barre and yoga, with many advanced level instructors. If you’re ready to take your Pilates to the next level in a group mat or private reformer session, Excel is the place to be! 

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Excel Fitness Larchmont is ideal for families, too. Childcare is available on site, provided by Larchmont Toddler, during weekday classes and some weekends. Kids yoga, barre and Pilates classes are also offered in four-week sessions. (See the website for schedules and specials.)

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And coming to Excel Fitness Larchmont in December is BootyBarre Sculpt! If you’re ready to take your barre practice to the next level, look no further. This dynamic total body workout features the cutting edge BootyBarre Cuff, which helps you experience fluid movement and seamless flow, combined with functional strength and flexibility. Excel Fitness Larchmont is thrilled to offer the most innovative barre class experience to date! 

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For more information and the full schedule of classes, visit www.excelfitnesslarchmont.com or call 914-740-7423. Excel Fitness Larchmont will even work to accommodate you if you don’t see a class that fits your current schedule! Now that’s full-service.

Excel Fitness Larchmont, 2097 Palmer Avenue, Larchmont; 914-740-7423

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Watching the New Tappan Zee Bridge Construction

Where to catch a glimpse of and learn more about the awesome building project.

November 11, 2015

Every time we drive across the Tappan Zee Bridge, the kids – and us adults, too! – can’t stop staring at all the enormous, water-based construction equipment involved with the building of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. There’s a landmark being made here, and it’s pretty awesome.

The new bridge's main span towers begin to rise.

But observing the construction doesn’t have to be a fleeting event that happens while you motor across the old Tappan Zee Bridge – you can actually watch it at your leisure from RiverWalk Park in Tarrytown. A viewing deck was built here about a year ago, near the 250 West Main Street entrance, and it features platform seating, two high-powered viewfinders, and a cool spotter’s guide, which identifies all of the different construction equipment and vessels. On the other side of the river, a similar deck just opened in Nyack’s Memorial Park last month.

tarrytown bridge viewing

If your kids have questions about what they’re looking at, but you don’t have the answers (guess who that happened to?), here’s where to find them: NewNYBridge.com. This fantastic, state-funded website features everything from panoramic photos taken by construction cams to the latest news on the project to helpful videos and maps. It’s a great resource for understanding what you’re seeing!

Photo credit: New York State Thruway Authority

Sponsored Post: 5 Tips to Building Pre-Reading Skills

Dr. Emily Levy of EBL Coaching shares her expert advice for encouraging reading.

November 10, 2015

“For some children, learning to read is an easy process,” says Dr. Emily Levy, founder and director of EBL Coaching, a one-on-one tutoring program that helps students in grades preK-12 develop their academic skills using research-based, multi-sensory techniques. “Through listening to stories and being exposed to language, they naturally develop the ability to sound out and identify words. Yet many children need direct, systematic instruction in sound-symbol relationships and blending in order to learn how to read effectively.”


Here, Dr. Levy shares with us her Top 5 Tips for ways to help our kids build the skills to read and understand language starting at an early age.

1. Teach sound and letter relationships by creating large flash cards with the letter on the front and a colorful key picture on the back (i.e., s/sun) and hang them around your house.

2. Play rhyming games to build phonemic awareness skills. For instance, select a word like “cat,” and ask everyone in your family to come up with a word that rhymes with it.

3. Have your child practice forming letters in colored sand or shaving cream, while saying the formation aloud (i.e., “around and around” for s).

4. Play a blending game by giving your child two (and later three or more) sounds and asking her to blend them together: “What word is formed when you blend together the sounds /a/ and /t/?”

5. Create a reading adventure to build language skills and make reading fun. Try sitting inside a tent made from pillows and sheets when reading scary stories, or eat a new food when reading about taste and texture.

EBL Coaching specializes in one-on-one HOME tutoring for students in grades pre-K-12 in reading, writing, math, study skills, executive functioning, and test preparation. It also offers specialized instruction for students with dyslexia, learning disabilities and ADHD, including tutoring using the Orton Gillingham method. Each student is initially evaluated to determine his or her specific needs and is hand-matched with one of EBL’s highly trained learning specialists. An individualized learning plan using research-based, multi-sensory techniques is created for each student. The one-on-one sessions can be held at home throughout Westchester.

Dr. Emily Levy is also the author of Strategies for Study Success, a 15-part study skills workbook series emphasizing test taking, note taking, reading comprehension, writing and summarizing skills, as well as the Flags and Stars Orton Gillingham student workbook series for reading and spelling. Dr. Levy received her undergraduate degree from Brown University. She later received her master’s in special education and her doctorate in education. She has spoken at numerous national conferences about the multi-sensory approach to teaching‎.

For more information, visit www.eblcoaching.com or call 212-249-0147.


Westchester Can’t Live Without: Hummus!

Where one local mom gets her fix.

November 9, 2015

Meredith Hayman, a makeup artist who lives in Yorktown, couldn’t live in Westchester without:

The hummus at Lefteris


“If you want to introduce your kids to hummus, Lefteris is the place to go,” she says. “We love its casual vibe and quick but fresh dishes. The staff is super friendly and the kitchen can turn around a takeout order in way less than 10 minutes.”

Lefteris, with locations in Ridge Hill, Tarrytown and Mt. Kisco; 914-242-8965.

A Fall Visit to Stone Barns

There's plenty of seasonal activities going on around the farm.

November 6, 2015

If you haven’t visited Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills recently, fall is a great time to go. Not only is it less crowded this time of year, but the farm also now has a weekend ticketing system (through Nov. 15) that gives you access to all of the seasonal activities they’ve got going on for one price, $20 per adult, $10 per child over 2; parking is free. The hands-on programs and tours include meeting the farm animals, egg collecting, working with the crops, meeting the Blue Hill kitchen staff, story time and more.

stone barns turkeys

We visited the farm this past Sunday and started off by checking out the turkey and the sheep. The turkey, in particular, were really amusing when they gobbled en masse! A member of the staff relayed some interesting facts about the animals and answered any questions that came up.

stone barns chicken egg collecting

Next, we headed over to the chicken coops to collect some eggs. This is always a daunting activity for my kids, who are afraid of being chased by chickens, but other kids seemed to enjoy gathering eggs and were the ones chasing the chickens around!


After that we tried our hand at a farm chore: shucking corn. This was easy and fun to do, and it was interesting to learn that the kernels would be used to make polenta at Blue Hill.

blue hill at stone barns baker

And for our last activity, we visited the newly built Blue Hill bakery, where the baker had just finished making a few loaves of rustic-looking bread. He showed us his equipment, including an on-site mill, and gave us each a taste of the bread. It was incredibly flavorful and even contained, we were told, corn kernels shucked by past visitors.

We ended our visit with lunch from the café: grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, vegetable frittata and a cheddar-kale bun. All of the ingredients were from the farm. There’s really no better place than Stone Barns to help your kids visualize what farm-to-table actually looks like. And it was great to be able to spend the day running around outside, even dining al fresco, since there aren’t going to be very many nice weekends left!


Some Westchester public libraries offer free weekend passes to Stone Barns. See a list of participating libraries or purchase advance tickets here. If you’d rather check out the farm without doing all of the guided activities, there’s free admission on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. And starting in mid-November, Stone Barns will return to its old system of free entry and charging for particular activities, but the number of activities will be significantly reduced as the farm winds down for the winter.

Stone Barns, 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills; 914-366-6200

November Happy List

November 5, 2015

It feels like summer outside, but don’t be fooled. The holidays are inching closer. Believe it or not, Yonkers is hosting its tree lighting in just a few weeks, with many locales to follow. Gulp. Here’s a guide to help you get in on the fun. (And don’t forget to spend a few minutes in […]

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Understanding Fall and Winter Allergies

November 4, 2015

This post was brought to you by Scarsdale Medical Group.  Sore throat, nasal congestion, coughing — symptoms we typically associate with a cold — may in fact be allergies. According to Scarsdale Medical Group’s Allergist, Dr. Jennifer Camacho, typical fall seasonal allergens include weed (ragweed and mugwort are two common ones) and mold. Winter or year-round […]

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Granola Bars Topped With Halloween Candy

November 2, 2015

It’s the Monday after Halloween, and there are mountains of candy lying around your house, just asking to be eaten by your kids … or, worse yet, you! What’s a parent to do? Here’s the answer. Use the candy in this recipe, adapted from Once Upon a Chef, to make gluten-free, nut-free, chewy granola bars. Throw in chopped […]

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Day Trip: Storm King Art Center

October 30, 2015

Our friends over at Fifi and Hop recently visited Storm King Art Center. They loved it so much they wrote us a report. Now I’m dying to go! One of our favorite places to go where the kids can run free, all the while viewing incredible art, is Storm King Art Center. Like many families […]

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